WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner - Part Nine – Perseverance (毅 – Yì)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In our Ninth instalment of “WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner” we will look at “Perseverance”. Perseverance is already being displayed by those of you who have continued to read all the articles in this series. Now let’s look at why that’s so important.

Perseverance (毅 – Yì)
Perseverance is the ability to continue on with effort and diligence despite all obstacles. When we consider the five thoughts associated with WǔDé, perseverance is the cornerstone of martial arts practice. If we don’t have the ability to persevere then we will never achieve any level of competency in our chosen art.

What does it actually mean by “persevering” in martial arts practice? Probably the simplest description is “not giving up”. However, this concept moves way past the martial arts. It is something that delineates anyone who is an expert in their chosen field of endeavour. We are used to hearing about Malcolm Gladwell’s oft-used “10,000 Hour Rule” where he stated “the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.” However, Gladwell’s Rule has been de-bunked and replaced with a more refined and accurate assessment of what it takes to be skilled. Frans Johansson has expounded on the 10,000 Hour Rule and said that practice only works in stable structures such as sport and music, so for us as martial arts practitioners, that’s perfect. However, Frans does go on to say that it has to be deliberate and focussed practice. And so we return to WǔDé. Gladwell could have saved himself a lot of time in writing “The Outliers” if he’d just used the principles of WǔDé.

In essence, if you are a truly dedicated martial arts practitioner, you will have no problem at all in accepting that it is a long-term commitment. That you have to accept failure, that you have to accept never actually being perfect, but you move on in spite of that, and in so doing, move inexorably closer to being “the very best you can be”. If you really want to be good in martial arts, 95% of the way there is nowhere near the finishing line. The last 5% of your training will take the rest of your life to understand and accomplish, so don’t give up.

In the West, we often refer to the Chinese Martial Arts as “kungfu” or “gongfu”, which literally translates to “any skill, art or discipline achieved through hard work and practice.” We don’t own the term, but it applies so well to us as practitioners and highlights the critical need for perseverance. Just remember, if you want to be any good at anything it requires single-minded practice, practice, practice, and more practice.

“Three feet of ice is not formed in a single day” but “Every step leaves a footprint”.

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